6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2020

church trends 2020So what are the 2020 church trends you should watch in what is shaping up to be a very pivotal year?

In this post, I’ll share six new trends that really have my attention.

While it might seem like a lot of change and challenges ahead, you and I lead in an age of massive disruption.

Industries are being disrupted or obliterated in years, not decades, and once-dominant companies are falling fast (just ask Polaroid, Blockbuster or Compaq computers).

And leading in the church is even a little more complex than leading in the marketplace for numerous reasons. Here’s one of them: America is moving from a Christian to post-Christian culture faster than most people imagined, and will soon match the level of secularization found in places like Europe, Australia, Canada, and other Western nations.

The nones, or those claiming no religious affiliation, have now emerged as the largest religious demographic in the US—a larger group than evangelicals or Roman Catholics.

Leading people to Jesus in a world that’s moving away from Jesus is an increasingly difficult challenge…and increasingly larger opportunity.

There’s so much at stake.

Leading people to Jesus in a world that's moving away from Jesus is an increasingly difficult challenge...and increasingly larger opportunity. Click To Tweet

As a result, this year, I’ve written two posts on trends for 2020.

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends That Will Rule 2020 is my first trends post for 2020. In it, I focus on five different trends I see in the culture that all leaders in every field (business, church, not-for-profit) may want to track. You can read that here.

This post is on 6 trends specific to church leaders, and it’s the 2020 edition of a post I’ve done for the last four years:

5 Disruptive Church Trends for 2019

7 Disruptive Church Trends for 2018

6 Disruptive Church Trends for 2017

5 Disruptive Church Trends for 2016

I know, that’s a lot of disruption.

Disruption is hard because disruption is inconvenient. It’s far easier to keep doing what you’re doing hoping for better results. But just know this: being disrupted is far more painful than deciding to disrupt yourself.

With that in mind, here are 6 disruptive church trends that will rule 2020.

Being disrupted is far more painful than deciding to disrupt yourself. Click To Tweet

1. Content-Based Attendance Will Decline. Movements, Moments and Missions Will Grow

It’s no secret that most churches are plateaued or declining, and that even models of church that were effective a decade ago—like attractional church—are struggling now.

I wrote about the growth of charismatic churches and the decline of the attractional church approach here, and about the hunger we have in our culture for the transcendent, not just the immanent. All of that is still true, if not intensifying.

So where is all of this going?

Recently, I had a fascinating conversation with Louie Giglio, founder of Passion, about this. Passion just saw 65,000 college students flood Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for three days.

In a recent interview with Louie on my Leadership Podcast (listen here via Apple Podcasts or Spotify), Louie and I discuss what events people still love to attend and what events people tend to skip.

The interview crystallized for me that what’s still growing are movements, moments and missions. Passion 2020 was a movement of students on a mission gathering for moment—65,000 of them in one place at one time.

Similarly, Louie points out in the interview, people seem to have no trouble pouring out onto the streets for political or social protests or gathering for critical moments.

Louie’s so right. Attendance at live events isn’t dying, but it is changing. A lot.

Attendance at live events isn't dying, but it is changing. A lot. Click To Tweet

The church, of course, at our authentic best, has all of these characteristics: a movement on a mission characterized by some very profound moments.

Too often, though, we ignore or simply miss those critical elements because so much of the current church model for Sunday morning has been based on content delivery.

But content alone no longer fills a room in an age where content fills the internet.

Content used to fill a room because content was scarce. You had to attend to hear a message. But podcasts, YouTube and social media have changed that dramatically and permanently from all we can tell. As a result, you no longer have to be in the room to listen.

So what does this mean?

People are hungering for an experience of God, not just information about God. That’s always been true, but that’s even truer now (for reasons I share here).

Content alone no longer fills a room in an age where content fills the internet. People are hungering for an experience of God, not just information about God. Click To Tweet

Emphasizing moments and movements and mission are more critical than ever. People don’t just want to know what’s true, they want to know what’s real. And what’s real is deeper than just an idea—it’s an experience.

As a matter of confession, in the past, sometimes the services we crafted had too much hype or too much head knowledge and not enough encounter.

Hype is no longer resonating with a generation of people looking for hope.

Hype is no longer resonating with a generation of people looking for hope. Click To Tweet

So, in 2020, focus on calling people back to the mission of the church, not just attending church. Call people to do the kinds of things people who are part of a movement do (how about start by loving your city and each other?) and shaping moments in the service that go beyond information and engage people’s senses and heart (for starters: prayer, music that’s more than just some songs to get people energized, maybe even communion).

All of this can spark moments of transformation. You can’t create powerful moments, but you can facilitate them.

Churches that do this—that have great content but think beyond great content—will likely gain momentum.

But churches that ignore an encounter with God and simply hope a decent message will fill a room will likely continue to be shocked by how it no longer does.

Churches that ignore an encounter with God and simply hope a decent message will fill a room will likely continue to be shocked by how it no longer does. Click To Tweet

2. Growing Churches Will Be Led By Younger Leaders

There’s data that also points to a trend I’m also sensing through first-hand observation: growing churches tend to be led by younger leaders.

Research by Petr Cincala and Renee Drum suggests that clergy age impacts congregations in these ways (thank you to FACT for the summary and to Ed Stetzer directing me to it):

Younger clergy (under 50 years) appear to be driving the largest share of church growth in the US.

Young pastors lead churches rated as healthier compared to older pastors.

Younger clergy lead congregations with more adults younger than 50, Young Adults, Youth and Children than older clergy

Aging pastors lead congregations with a greater percentage of older members

Younger clergy are oriented more to goals than older pastors who tend to be service and people-oriented

I’m certain you can find exceptions to this. Some 50+ leaders are doing a great job leading their growing churches into the future. And a 50+ leader on a new assignment sometimes brings higher energy and fresher perceptive than a 50+ leader who’s led in the same place for decades.

However, as the church decline statistics might suggest, younger leaders seem to be leading much of the growth.

Growing churches tend to be led by younger leaders. Click To Tweet

So what’s going on? Well, it’s harder to keep innovating as you get older as a leader, in part because you’ve used a lot of your creative energy to craft what you’ve created (your creative energy has a shelf-life and cycle to it) and it’s easy to fall prey to sunk cost bias (I’ve built this whole thing this way…we simply have to keep it going).

As a result, the older you get, the less likely you are to innovate. And innovation drives growth and connection with emerging generations.

I’m not talking about innovations around mission—just methods. When the methods atrophy, the mission dies.

When the methods atrophy, the mission dies. Click To Tweet

For a host of reasons, this trend shouldn’t be shocking.

First, innovation for the next generation naturally comes from the next generation.

Second, new churches, re-starts and leadership transitions often spark growth: momentum naturally comes from new and innovative approaches.

Third, the next generation inherently understands the generation they’re trying to reach better than previous generations.

So many leaders talk about reaching the next generation but never include the next generation.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s going to take the leadership of the next generation to reach the next generation.

So many leaders talk about reaching the next generation but never include the next generation. It's going to take the leadership of the next generation to reach the next generation. Click To Tweet

3. The Succession Crisis Will Become More of A Crisis

I believe we’ll see two things in 2020 when it comes to succession.

More older leaders who realize it’s time for them to move on but who don’t know how.

More younger leaders leaving because older leaders won’t move on when they should move on.

I hear almost every day from frustrated younger leaders who complain about how stuck, uninspired and stubborn the senior leadership in their church is. And talking to older leaders, it’s equally clear many (not all, but many) have run out of vision, energy and fresh ideas for the seasons ahead while they hang onto leaders.

When most churches are plateaued or declining, younger leaders know what many are loathe to admit: it’s unlikely that the leader who led a church into decline is going to be the leader who gets it growing.

It's unlikely that the leader who led a church into decline is going to be the leader who gets it growing. Click To Tweet

Let me be clear:  I do NOT have a hate on for older leaders. I’m well into my fifties. But I do get frustrated with leaders who won’t make room for the next generation or fresh ideas.

Personally, when I felt my energy for the church I led begin to wane when I was in my late forties, I exited the senior pastor role (at age 50). I still had a ton of passion for the mission. I just sensed I probably was no longer the guy to lead it. In fact, because I had so much passion for the mission I realized it was time for me to let someone younger lead it and position our church well for the future.

And (no surprise here), what you often discover when you change roles is that your passion renews. I have a ton of fresh passion and energy for leading what I’m leading today (writing, podcasting, speaking)—helping the church and leaders, but just from a new seat.

Every year the church is led by a leader who’s lost vision, lost passion and lost focus, the mission suffers.

However, the succession crisis is only a crisis if you make it one. Great leadership renews. Other leadership hangs on.

Every year the church is led by a leader who's lost vision, lost passion and lost focus, the mission suffers. Click To Tweet

If you want more, I wrote on the issues behind the pastoral succession crisis in this post and how boards, leaders and successors might respond (if the issue is that the pastor can’t afford to retire, there’s a better solution than hanging on for five more years).

4. Preaching Will Continue to Move To Higher Quality, Lower Reps

In almost all growing churches there seems to be a move by preachers to higher quality and lower reps.

Higher quality means spending more time working on each message. Lower reps means preaching fewer messages each year.

That’s a big shift. A few decades ago, most preachers prepared 2-3 different messages a week: one sermon Sunday morning, another Sunday night, and yet another fresh one mid-week. That often meant preparing and delivering over 100 messages each year.

What’s changed, of course, is that content is now everywhere. And thanks to podcasts, TED talks and YouTube, preachers are being compared to anyone and everyone.

Hence the move to higher quality and lower reps in preaching.

Thanks to podcasts, TED talks and YouTube, preachers are being compared to anyone and everyone. Hence the trend to higher quality and lower reps in preaching. Click To Tweet

I informally polled (via text) half a dozen preachers under age 45 I know who lead rapidly growing mega-churches. I asked them how many times a year they preached.

The answer was eerily similar: 33-39 Sundays a year.  Which means they’re not teaching between 15-19 Sundays a year. And most of that is not because they’re on vacation or teaching somewhere else.

As Aaron Brockett from Trader’s Point told me:

Preaching reps work a little like dog years…they age you. I want to develop other communicators and expose our people to other voices and styles as well.

I can suffer from a little content fatigue…our people can get listener fatigue if it’s the same voice and style over and over.

Preaching reps work a little like dog years...they age you. @aaronbrockett Click To Tweet

If you’re looking to deepen the impact of your preaching in 2020, think better messages, not more messages.

If you don’t have a team, consider using video for other weeks. Life.Church and many other churches make their videos available for free.

Quality beats quantity. You’ll be better. So will your people.

If you want to sharpen your communication skills this year, Mark Clark and I have put all of our top content on how to preach better sermons into The Art of Better Preaching.

If you're looking to deepen the impact of your preaching in 2020, think better messages, not more messages. Click To Tweet

5. The Mediocre Middle Will Frustrate More Churches

As I outlined in my Leadership Trends for 2020 post, the middle is disappearing from our culture. It’s also disappearing from our church.

While you can get a full explanation of this trend here, what does the disappearance of the middle from culture mean for church leaders?

In the same way that mid-market department stores (think Sears) have been decimated, and the low and high end of culture is thriving, churches may also want to rethink the middle.

The middle is disappearing from our culture. It's also disappearing from the church. Click To Tweet

This middle is where average lives. The middle is trying to reach everybody. And in the church context, in particular, the middle involves imitation.

If you look at many churches, the last few decades have involved a lot of imitation. Find a big church you admire and emulate.

However (and this is a big however), many smaller to mid-sized churches don’t have the people, money or gifting to pull off what larger churches pull off, or at least they lack the ability to do it well.

As a result, mediocrity wins.

The Band is trying to do Hillsong/Elevation/Bethel, but it’s really not that great.

The pastor is trying to be relevant and funny, but, um, well….

Your church is trying to offer great programs, but you’re really stretching yourself thin—too thin.

As a result, you end up in the middle. And the middle is disappearing.

That can be a really frustrating place to be when you realize you are hundreds/thousands of people and thousands/millions of dollars from doing what you want to be able to do.

So what do you do?

First, rethink imitation.

As I’ve shared before, imitation kills innovation. Leaders who imitate rarely innovate, and while you can learn from others, trying to be someone else can end up stifling your voice and squelching your gift.

Ask yourself, what gift do you bring that others don’t have? The good news is: it doesn’t take much work for you to be you. You’re gifted in ways others aren’t…so leverage that. Plus it’s authentic. Authentic resonates in a way imitation never does.

Authentic resonates in a way imitation never does. Click To Tweet

Second, find what your team does best and lean into it.

Maybe you don’t really have the talent to put together a quality full band. But you have an amazing keyboard player or guitarist. So go with them for a season, and hope and pray for the day when you can add highly gifted musicians back into the mix.

I love our band(s) now at our church. And somehow we manage to stack three locations with phenomenally gifted players. But rewind two decades, and it was way more of a struggle.  We simply did the best we could with what we had, kept featuring the best musicians we had.

One great musician will connect far better with an audience than a below-average band.

One great musician will connect far better with an audience than a below-average band. Click To Tweet

If you’re a small or mid-sized church, plan for growth, but in the meantime get really good at being small…and personal.

As the leadership trends post suggests, small can be personal. Warm. Human. Empathetic. Of course, large can be all those things too, but when you’re smaller you can be so great at those.

If the middle is disappearing, do everything you can to avoid it. It might be one of the best things you’ve ever done.

If you're a small or mid-sized church, get really good at being small...and personal. Click To Tweet

6. Your Politics Will Alienate The Very People You’re Trying to Reach

I saved the most controversial till last.

Maybe you won’t read it.

But I hope you do.

This one’s been really tugging on my heart and I’ve hesitated to say much because things are so divisive and explosive right now.  I’ve been through numerous drafts trying to say it well.

So with some fear and trepidation, here are my thoughts.

2020 is an election year. And that means and more and more church leaders will be tempted to take to social media, platforms and pulpits to preach partisan politics.


Just don’t.

Aligning yourself specifically with a position or party overshadows your connection to Jesus. People no longer see Jesus, they see a Republican or Democrat or whatever position they imagine you to be.

When you become partisan or political in your preaching or platform, by definition, in this culture, you alienate about half the people you’re supposed to be reaching.

And you alienate them over issues that have nothing to do with Jesus.

When you become partisan or political in your preaching, by definition, in this culture, you alienate about half the people you're supposed to be reaching. And you alienate them over issues that have nothing to do with Jesus. Click To Tweet

If your theology is all about

God, guns, the Supreme Court, and why the left is so bad; or

Climate change, sexual identity, taxing the rich and why the right is horrible

…you have to ask yourself whether that’s really your faith speaking or your partisanship speaking.

The church doesn’t exist to elect or defeat politicians. It exists to glorify Christ and grow his Kingdom (which is an alt Kingdom) in the world.

And (gut check) if God has all the same opinions your political party does, you’re probably not worshipping God.

If God has all the same opinions your political party does, you’re probably not worshipping God. Click To Tweet

God is not a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, a liberal or a socialist. He transcends all our political categories, however important they might be to you or me.

Politics matters, but it will never change the world the way the Gospel can (or has).

When it come to evangelism, unchurched people aren’t looking for an echo to the political culture, they’re hungering for an alternative.

Unchurched people aren't looking for an echo to the political culture, they're hungering for an alternative. Click To Tweet

You want to know why this issue is so divisive?

My guess is underneath your passion is anger. I get that. I get angry at the culture and at politics too.

Guess what?

It shows.

Spewing hate at people who disagree with you or smugly defending your position is one of the most effective ways to ensure people never see the love of Jesus pouring through you.

Too often, we preachers who claim to speak for Jesus act and behave nothing like Jesus. And that’s not acceptable.

Too often, preachers who claim to speak for Jesus act and behave nothing like Jesus. Click To Tweet

In an age where everybody has a platform and everyone has an audience, we need more humility and wisdom, not more anger and hate.

Imagine if 2020 was a year when the Gospel advances. Imagine a year in which

Love surges.

Hope gets fuelled.

We can disagree but still be agreeable.

We focus on what unites us, not on what divides us.

Looking for a model?

In my view, Tim Keller has masterfully and effectively preached for decades to a people who have all kinds of political persuasions and positions. And he’s done it in a way that, to me, reflects the heart and mind of Christ.

In a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope, not the hate.

In a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope, not the hate. Click To Tweet

If You’d Love to Reach More People in 2020…


So you would love to see your church grow in 2020, but the question is how? 

Naturally, I can’t make a church grow and you can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow. You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people.

That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.  

The Church Growth Masterclass is designed to help you jumpstart a stuck church, or help your growing church reach even more people. 

It’s everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

In the Church Growth Masterclass you’ll learn:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The five keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

Really hoping 2020 is a year of growth and impact for you and your church!

What Trends Do You See?

Those are 6 trends I’m seeing for 2020.

What about you? See any trends you think should be on the list?

What are your thoughts on the year ahead?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2020


  1. Judah on April 24, 2020 at 8:15 pm

    One question I would ask about the political side is that it seems as though moral issues are getting pushed into the spot of politics. So rather than saying I support (Republican, Democrat, Green), it’s almost supporting issues such as abortion, gun rights, etc. I like what you said about God not being Republican, Democrat, because He is above all, but I do believe some of these political issues would have Biblical views towards them. What are your thoughts towards that and thank you!

    • T-Bone on August 11, 2020 at 5:00 am

      You are correct .. social issues have been politicized. And regardless they are still issues of the church and Christianity. The church has no reservation when it comes to abortion but climate and environmental issues are taboo!?! My goodness .. God created this universe and you can’t talk about nor encourage ways to be good custodians of it!?! .. that seems silly, maybe blasphemous. The church can talk about abortion and declare itself pro-life but standby and say/do nothing about social injustice and racism!?! Again, to LIVE like a Christian must be more difficult than talking about being Christian. Even the ageism aspect of this article is so unchristian and narrow minded stereotyping .. Sheesh!!! Really!?!
      You’re right God nor Jesus are affiliated with a political party but Christians have a moral role to influence society in a way that mirrors Jesus and not doing that will kill Christianity faster than a bad band.

  2. Robby Brown on February 20, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    I fear that in our attempts to not be political that we could cease to be prophetic. When politicians begin to speak about issues that the Bible has addressed since it was written, we shouldn’t abandon those subjects for fear of sounding political. If society is debating a subject in the political arena causing the next gen to ask questions that the Bible answers, we should not hesitate to speak up and share what the Bible says. The ultimate goal (and I pastor a growing church) is not to build a crowd, but to make disciples. I believe these disciples should have a passion for Christ, a love for all people, and a growing understanding of how to live as salt and light. Not partisan, but clear on those things to which the Bible clearly speaks. The subject you preach this Sunday could become a political topic next year. That doesn’t mean you have to stop addressing it.

    • Gabriel on August 26, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      I believe there is a way of being prophetic without coming across as political, especial partisan. As the author pointed it out, the big failure is in how we use the gospel to respond to political issues and crises. When we address moral and social issues without independently supporting it with scripture and Christian tradition and keep quiet on other equally important moral and social issues, we most likely line ourselves up with a political party. We engage in what I call a selective or pick and chose approach. And no longer the gospel of Christ, but politics takes the lead and we Tragically use the gospel to back our political preferences and benefits. We don’t have to have for example refugees, minorities, homeless people in our Community for us to bring the light of the gospel into related social issues.
      Thank you!

  3. Melissa on January 19, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Very well written. My church did the small church initiative and I learned so much while working through the process over 4 years. The trends you describe are exactly the reasons our churches are failing.

    I became disenchanted with my church because nothing seemed to change and 8 months later, I am still looking for a church home that does not look the same as the old one.

  4. Allan on January 14, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    The aged must not be forgotten . They have funds and give. The youth have funds and don’t give.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 15, 2020 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Allan. Thanks for weighing in. With all due respect, that’s simply not accurate. Many older people on a fixed income actually give less than younger adults and middle aged people. I have seen many churches and organizations moblize young givers. Some of our best donors are in their twenties and thirties.

      I do appreciate all you’ve done for the mission and continue to do. Thank you!

  5. Lucas on January 14, 2020 at 10:39 am

    The article is very special to me!!!
    Be blessed brother Carey. I appreciate your efforts

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 15, 2020 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks Lucas.

  6. Richard Jones on January 8, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    I found this post very helpful. Thanks for all you do, Carey. It is interesting that content is no longer the dragon churches need to slay; when getting great content to share has never been easier! Whether it is content from Andy Stanley, or Adam Hamilton, or all of the great free resources from life.church, there is amazing content available. Do you think available resources will make the shift to helping us curate experiences (the moment)? And if so, do you know of any sources for that kind of help now?
    Also, I was wondering if another driver (in addition to moment, mission, and movement) might be ‘meeting’ (or some other word)–developing face-to-face real community relationships? Is this/will this be a factor in church engagement? Or do you think people are sufficiently satisfied with online relationships?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      These are really great questions. I think the questions you ask will lead to good answers. But I’d say overall yes. Curation, community and a personal experience are probably key roles to play. And most people who meet online eventually end up meeting in person, so I think that’s going to be a big part of the future. But for sure, we’re in the midst of the sea-change now.

  7. Rev. Dr. Coach J. Livingston on January 8, 2020 at 11:36 am

    These comments on politics and the Bible are quintessentially “Spot on.” It makes my soul feel better to know that there is a body of baptized believers who are still willing to speak the truths of God. And to them, I say, “God Bless you!”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      It’s funny, I argue that the middle is disappearing but I do think most of us are closer to the middle poltiically than the extremes we see online. So I’m with you…I hope we can call people back to sensibility and sensitivty when speaking these issues.

  8. Noelle on January 7, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Wow and ouch.  This blog post really hits home about where we are at my home church and were we should be heading. Good stuff. As usual. Thanks, Carey.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2020 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks Noelle!

    • Ashton on April 29, 2020 at 7:26 am

      I have enjoyed much of your writing, am in agreement may issues and have implemented some of your teaching. Thank you very much.

      However, I have some issues with what comes across as an arrogance concerning older people/clergy who lack innovation and and whose enthusiasm or imagination have been shelved. You did mention that there are some exceptions. I am happy to tell you that I am one of those exceptions .

      The challenge, at least for me, is congregations who don’t want innovation, progress, transformation – spiritually or otherwise – or, as the worn out cliche forever states: “We don’t like change!” I do like change when it is necessary, Christ centered, God glorifying and people nurturing and challenging. So don’t throw us geezers out with Grampa’s bath water, please.

      I am praying that God keeps me active, vibrant and innovative for another 40 years of ministry! And, my he bless us both as we serve the same purpose for the same Living Christ and … amazingly enough … with many of the same methods.

      Grace, mercy and peace to you!

  9. Matt Porter on January 7, 2020 at 11:04 am

    #6!!! Totally agree with you sir on politics in the pulpit. I would heed us all in this though… We must stand in our pulpits and preach the TRUTH regardless which political party happens to aligns with it. My fear is that we have let political parties steal Biblical truths and claim it as “theirs” so we avoid them. Abortion is not a republican party platform, it’s a Bible platform. Taking care of the widows and orphans or the “poor” is not a democratic party platform, it’s a Bible platform. Issues of racism are not political party issues they are Bible issues.
    I certainly don’t think we should stand in our pulpits and preach our idea of “immigration reform” but we MUST teach how to treat those who look different than us! We stand in our pulpits and preach TRUTH and I guess if a political party happens to align with us…. well that’s just a bonus. 🙂

    • Noelle on January 7, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      Here here! This would make a wonderful sermon. =)

    • Dawn on January 7, 2020 at 11:48 pm

      Hmmm…. I disagree. Political parties don’t “steal biblical truths and claim it as theirs”; in my opinion, it goes the other way: Christians take political platforms of parties they like (or think they should follow) and mold them to what they think the Bible says.

      Abortion is actually a deeply political issue; and it is actually not in the Bible at all. Same goes for most social issues. Jesus was constantly pressured to take a public political stance, and he absolutely refused. Instead, he demonstrated a value system that was so countercultural to his day, it turned heads, and often offended those in power around him. What he did speak about was underlying spiritual/Kingdom values that could be translated to the social issues of his day, without actually discussing it directly.

      Another example (not Jesus, but still a great man): I find it fascinating that Billy Graham paid the bail of Martin Luther King Jr once without actually going public at the time with his views about segregation. Why? I personally think it was because he knew that it wasn’t his message (and he didn’t want to compromise his own message in any way); it was such an important issue of social justice, but just not his to speak. That takes great restraint…

      Back to abortion. Jesus could have talked about the common practice of exposure of infants, especially female infants, in his day; instead, he demonstrated incredible value for women and children that was absolutely countercultural in his day (and maybe to this day…). Paul could have talked about slavery, another common practice in his day, but instead, he mentored a former slave as a fellow minister of the gospel and spoke about the value of all human beings as children of God, where there is neither free, nor slave etc.

      I don’t like the phrase “speaking truth in love”, because we as Christians see this as an excuse to tout our opinions to a world that doesn’t even care what we think anyway without actually doing the love part. Why can’t we just love, and let the truth in our actions speak for itself…

      No politics. Fullstop. I think that is 100% what is safe and needs to happen.

      • Matt Porter on January 8, 2020 at 8:01 am

        Let me first say I also believe pastors have used their pulpit for strictly political gain. I do believe that is wrong and should stop.

        You are correct in saying the words abortion, social justice and racism are not in the Bible to my knowledge:)

        But surely we both agree that there’s a bit of information in there about the sanctity of life or about how we defend the oppressed?

        Maybe I’m not living “right enough” but few times in my life has someone came to me and said, “hey man, you live in such a way, please share the Gospel with me” That’s because the Gospel is something that we herald. I’m all about allowing my actions to speak love but somewhere along with way we have to speak! Therefore if you are in a position to help the oppressed, the minority, the widow by using your platform, you need to speak!

        The thought that we just need to pray at home, be real nice to minorities and have good thoughts towards the homeless man, in other words just “walk the walk” is simply terrifying to me.

        • Dawn on January 8, 2020 at 11:26 am

          Thank you for your response. And I agree completely that actions speak so much more than do words or “good thoughts”. Finding ways to actually, practically love the people around us speaks so much louder than what we say.

          And when one is in a place of authority, and especially when given a voice and a microphone, one’s words matter very deeply too. I have heard so many divisive political things preached from a pulpit, sometimes callously just because they had the mic and could, that point #6 resonated deeply with me, as it sounds like it did for you as well and many people.

          I think my point though really was that one has to know one’s personal calling and message. Obviously, there are people called to discuss these issues. If my personal message is the good news of salvation, however, then I am not going to pollute it with talking about a controversial issue like abortion and potentially alienate someone who came through my doors to find hope. The “gospel” at its heart is not about abortion or any other social political issue (I think most of us agree on that, although I have met people who think it is…). I also agree that the church I mean the is called to support social justice and equity; I just think the way it is done has to be different. When the church finds a way to model, not just discuss, but model, a value system of gender, racial and economic equity… I think we will see our society change too. My opinion anyway.

  10. David Williams on January 7, 2020 at 10:33 am

    I’m a pastor in Ontario, but an American ex-pat. My family are all back in the States now. I want to thank you for being brave and posting #6. I’m watching in horror as the church in my home country participates in the polarization of the nation. Christians should be better than that and setting a model of unity of purpose (the Kingdom of God) amidst diversity of political views (along with race, social class, education, etc.). Thanks for reminding pastors and leaders that their true loyalty is to Jesus, not America or a political party. First century Christians died for saying “Jesus is Lord” in an empire that vowed “Caesar is Lord.” We need to recapture that loyalty today.

    Bless you for your courage and tact as you presented it. Truth in love!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2020 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks David!

  11. Matt on January 7, 2020 at 7:28 am

    I’m a church planter in rural Iowa and we are starting the conversation of a permanent location (we are currently portable) and we are looking at a possible future building much differently. I’ve also started some google searches to see if anyone else is doing what I’m dreaming about right now. I was pretty surprised and incredibly encouraged with what I saw. I think this is a future disruption (and I don’t think you’ve talked much about it yet).
    I think churches in the future will continue to opt for portable, but will still build buildings. But those building will be for the community, not for the church.
    In my context, I’m wondering what my specific community needs so we can build that and run it as a non-profit, generate some income, and my church will rent and use that same space for any services we need.
    I don’t even think our church name will be on the sign or door
    What have you seen or heard about? Do you have any podcasts or blogs in this topic? This may be one of those disruptive trends that we are about to discover that takes the 167 to a whole new level.
    Thanks for all you do.
    – Matt, 37 yr old church planter in rural Iowa.

    • Melissa on January 7, 2020 at 11:26 am

      Our church in Kentucky is doing that exact same thing. We recently received our approval for our non-profit status and have begun fundraising for a community center. The community has supported this idea from the very beginning and in the last month has donated over $350,000! We are overwhelmed with the positive response because we are a small church-plant (that was portable for 3 years and met in one of our local high schools) and many of the donors do not attend our church gathering (and in some cases are not part of the local church at all). I have recently been hired as the executive director for the community center and would love some resources on this topic as well as I feel like I am flying blind.

      Thanks for posting your comment as it encourages me that others are like-minded.

      • Matt on January 8, 2020 at 5:49 am

        Melissa, that sounds incredible! I would love to chat further. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to leave personal contact info so if admin needs to remove I understand but Melissa, email me and we can chat further. My email is mdesmidt@morningsideag.org

      • Ed Cyzewski on February 6, 2020 at 1:32 pm

        Just looked up your website Melissa. It looks great. I’m over in Murray and may know a really good person to talk to about your vision. I have a contact page on my website you can use if you want to get in touch.

      • Steve on February 20, 2020 at 9:40 am

        We have a community center. Built it 3 years ago. We use it for revenue and also have a service plant there. Other churches also rent for the center as well.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2020 at 3:06 pm

      Love the insight Matt. Keep us posted!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2020 at 9:34 pm

      Matt…I think this is interesting and you’re certainly not alone. I’ve seen quite a few leaders try this approach but it’s early days. Not too many results yet.

      The growing churches tend to be led by younger leaders who are shaping their ministry more as a church as we’ve known it, but who are making a big impact on the community as a church.

      But again, experimentation is keey. Keep us posted!

  12. Sylvia Acayan on January 7, 2020 at 2:06 am

    Thank you for generously sharing your wisdom, Carey!

    Movements, moments and mission. Younger leaders. Wow!

    Again, the Holy Spirit is inspiring me through you. I am so excited!

    66-year old Sylvia

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2020 at 3:07 pm

      Glad to help!

  13. Ryan on January 6, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Nailed it! Challenging and good. From a small church, I especially like the advice to ‘do small’–well. Authentic over imitating. Great stuff.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 6, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      Glad to help!

  14. Mark McDonald on January 6, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    Hi Carey, great article.
    The idea of church being more of an experience of God seems to resonate as people consume content everywhere. There always seems to be a better theologian or bible scholar on youtube or podcasts than the local pastor can ever be. Personally I listen to NT Wright, Donald Miller and Carey Nieuwhof every week. So offering specific application of the bible and an experience of God seems to be the “value add” for turning up to church.
    I wonder more and more about the ministry older pastors. Here in Australia the majority of churches have one paid staff position and the retirement age is shifting closer to 70. So what are all these older pastors to do if they can’t retire and can’t hand off the leadership and stay on staff as a mentor? Whilst I’m only in my mid 40’s, I’d love to hear or read your thoughts for older pastors on serving in the fourth quarter. Many wise christians say there is no retirement from Christianity, so how should we help older christians serve the church?

    • Colleen Kim on January 7, 2020 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Mark – I agree with your first paragraph takeaway on the consumption of content. Very true.

      In terms of older pastors, leadership changes as you age. Let’s take a page from some of the kings in the Old Testament and even King David. He became wiser through experience and his journey was one that became legacy building. I have seen many families really respond to older pastors because quite simply, they have nothing to “prove.” They can be in ministry from pure call…and know when to exit if they are listening to God’s voice.

      I don’t believe the discussion should focus on age, older vs. younger measurement here: I think the discussion is this: how effective is the person in their position and has God given them a vision to lead His ministry? If so, that person will be as effective as a younger person – with sustained results over time. Some of the newer pastors and church plants haven’t lived long enough to prove their story and to show this wasn’t just another “tactic” to get people in the church. It’s all about relationships, leadership, and delegation to work with the strengths of the *whole* body, in my opinion. Who is gifted at that? Everyone working together – not just “one” person!

      • Steve on February 20, 2020 at 9:50 am

        Love this comment, I am a second career pastor. So obviously I am not young. But my vision is brand new. I serve with a much younger team and love every minute of it. I find that I can lean into relationships that are rare in today’s culture. Many broken or dysfunctional families. I lave that I can bring life experience mixed with fresh vision.

    • Sylvia Johnson on February 20, 2020 at 9:40 am

      What are the older church members suppose to do? Sit and be quiet? The young leaders still need guidance.

  15. Glenn Garvin on January 6, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    Bravo! Thanks for being brave, you’ve found your voice. I’m so glad you’re using it to its max.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 9, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks Glenn!

  16. Andrew Cartledge on January 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    Brilliant stuff Carey! Thanks for being consciously aware of what is happening and helping inform those who just don’t have the capacity to watch these trends. This is a Great Leap Forward for people like me who are just starting out in a new season in church leadership.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 6, 2020 at 10:32 pm

      Glad to help Andrew!

  17. Brian on January 6, 2020 at 11:56 am

    Fabulous article! Prayers for you to continue this focus and to provide healthy insights to your many followers.

  18. Larry Shaw on January 6, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Thought-provoking, challenging insights. Thank you for sharing, and for being a leader of leaders.

  19. Buae Emmy on January 6, 2020 at 11:09 am

    Well it’s too much good

  20. Danielle on January 6, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Wow! Just Wow Carey! This article hits it right on the head, and if we as a church can’t see these trends are knocking on our doors, we need to take a self check, and hiatus from ministry. Too often, we can’t put our egos to the side and realize what we are doing isn’t working, because we think it reflects directly on us, when it’s just the vehicle that we are using isn’t effective anymore. But we have to let go, and turn to the next generation for inspiration…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we showed support of the next generation, by removing ourselves from the seat at the table, giving it to the next gen, and then providing support and assistance to them in their views so they can be successful? Great stuff here, great stuff!

  21. Andrew Powell on January 6, 2020 at 10:30 am


    Good stuff bro… I could say a ton (in thanks) but for the sake of time. Keep doing what you’re doing!


    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 6, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      We’ll keep it up!

  22. Kathy Waters LaFollette on January 6, 2020 at 7:16 am

    I am a UMC pastor. I was appointed to a failing church in Sept of 2018. Attendance has more than tripled and we are on our way – with some good support from the Holston Conference. I am female and over 70, I would like to see my church grow more. At first I was upset that the church does not have wireless. Now I like it. No one is on their phone during the service.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 6, 2020 at 7:52 am

      Hey that’s awesome Kathy. New leadership is often the fuel needed for transformation.

    • Denise Burke on January 6, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      Kathy, your news is awesome. I would love to hear more about your approach to growing your church and the amazing results you have had. Denise Burke at deniseburke10@hotmail.com

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